“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde
Is conflict good or bad for a relationship? Many would suggest that it is harmful and set out to avoid conflict as they would the flu. But is conflict really that harmful to a relationship or is avoiding conflict worse?
You and your spouse are obviously going to see things differently, feel differently and want different things. One way to avoid conflict is by not expressing your views, feelings and desires. You justify this by saying it is not important to stir up conflict around disagreements or differing viewpoints.
The reward for not expressing yourself is a smoother relationship free from conflict, but at what price? The ultimate cost is a loss of intimacy; the relationship becomes superficial because you become unknown to your partner. Your partner may like you, but does he or she really know you.
Another danger is losing yourself. After you have lived for years avoiding conflict by not expressing yourself, you could find yourself uncertain about what you see, what you feel and what you want. Many children are taught to want what their parents want for them. These children are not rebellious teenagers but they fail to form a clear identity. They learn to accept that they are what others say they are!
Many can recall the exhilaration you felt when you first realized your partner accepted you for yourself. “He gets me.” “She accepts me for who I am.” Yet, some believe they must hide from their partner in order to be accepted. Their partner never knows the real person they only assume they know their lover. They enjoy the ease in which they blend their lives together, yet never really know how their partner views their life, how they feel and what they want.
The real problem in bringing about change in the conflict avoidant spouse is that the spouse actually believes they are doing an admirable thing by being flexible and easy to please. They have no sense that there is a reward for being open and honest as they only see conflict as destructive.
Yet at some point conflict avoidant individuals tire of meeting everyone else’s desires while placing their own desires on the backburner. Long-suppressed rebellion emerges in anger, even rage. Unfortunately, this is destructive to relationships. Either the relationship collapses or the rebellion is once again muffled in favor of a conflict-free relationship.
If you avoid conflict, start today to question your stance. Take time to write down your views, feelings and desires. Then, after you are clear about what you see, feel and desire, take the risk of asserting yourself to your partner. Tolerate the tension of differences and notice how your partner comes closer not more distant.